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B2B Marketing: What you need to know about the major ABM trend

Account Based Marketing (ABM) is becoming a very popular fixture in B2B marketing strategies. This trailblazing trend has definitely earned its reputation on the marketing scene, and is continuing to make its mark with 92% of B2B marketers regarding it as “extremely” or “very” important to their marketing efforts.

It is a communication approach that targets a carefully defined target audience and dismisses the “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” campaign mentality.

ABM places its focus on long-term activity, where content is adjusted to the audience, their needs and pain points. This considered content can be for selected accounts and for specific people within organisations. At the very heart of the approach, ABM looks to grow the relationships that matter most to an organisation, with the aim to demonstrate how much chosen accounts are valued.

ABM, done right, can influence positive outcomes including pipeline velocity and the expansion of existing accounts. The laser-focused strategy can also significantly reduce the time, resource and budget wasted on landing leads that don’t fit business requirements and which will never likely lucratively convert.

What is account-based marketing?

Don’t worry if you’re taking your first steps into the world of Account Based Marketing, we’ve got you. Together, let’s dissect the en vogue acronym and delve into what it can offer companies.

ABM, with its proven capability to improve brand reputation, strengthen relationships and increase revenue results, is now an established and vital marketing strategy. With ITSMA suggesting in their recent ‘ABM Benchmark Study’ that it delivers a higher ROI than other types marketing, the strategy brings together highly personalised marketing and sales activity, with the committed ambition to establish new and grow current target accounts.

One big challenge facing businesses is the coordination of sales and marketing functions. ABM helps address this issue and aligns these fundamental departments from the outset. Opposed to qualifying a lead out after it’s generated, ABM turns the traditional marketing funnel on its head and harnesses the prequalification process. From the start, the approach requires sales and marketing to unite and construct a list defining the most valuable target accounts, the priority of those accounts, and an identification of who within specified companies will be targeted to increase business opportunities. There’s also a mutual agreement relating to how these named accounts will be converted.

Net vs Spear

Now, keen fishing fan or not, one of our favourite analogies to illustrate the ABM approach better is ‘Net vs Spear’. If you haven’t come across this before you may be wondering what on earth we’re talking about. Stick with us, it will all become clear…

Casting the ‘Net’: Traditional lead generation marketing tends to cast campaigns out there to catch as many leads through as many channels as possible. The focus isn’t on which specific leads are landed in the net, as long as there is a large enough quantity hooked, that can be nurtured and converted into lucrative sales.

Grab your ‘Spear’: With ABM, the opposite is true; you select and know which leads you want to hunt from the start. Through hyper-personalised campaigns, businesses can go after high-value targeted accounts. There’s no effort and resource wasted on reeling in the wrong kind of leads, instead there is a clear momentum on concentrating dedicated, tailored activity on reaching identified prospects.

Unlike lead generation marketing, an ABM strategy is less concerned with bringing in and building pipelines with an influx of net-new leads. Instead, the intent is to bring in new priority prospect relationships, while also influencing account growth and accelerating results from within existing pipelines.

Another recognisable difference between inbound marketing and ABM is the treatment of leads. Instead of marketing passing over a one-off lead and relinquishing it to sales to develop, with ABM, marketing and sales continue to work in unison over a longer-term to establish the account, and influence and expand it jointly by addressing individual and specific needs.

ABM: 3 strategy approaches

So, now you’ve got a better handle on what ABM is, it’s time to reveal what ABM approaches are out there.

ABM has evolved over recent years, giving companies the flexibility to implement programmes that are relevant to their different groups of priority customers and prospects. Today there’s a consensus on three distinct forms of ABM, each differentiated on the basis of the level of personalisation attributed in the communication approach. As a rule, it’s widely regarded that the more personalised the approach, the more effective outcomes will be.

One-to-one ABM

Okay, as you’d probably already guessed from the name, this type of ABM is 100% personalised. Also known as ‘Strategic ABM’ the focus is solely on the ‘whale’ accounts, aka the target accounts that have been identified as the largest and most valuable strategic accounts to close business with. Accounts are treated individually, and engagement is tailored and completely bespoke to each. The resource to fulfil the level of research required for completely customised content is significant and the cost of campaigns higher versus the other two ABM processes. However, it’s worth noting, that due to the fully personalised approach, ROI on 1:1 activity is also respectively higher.

One-to-few ABM

Moving down the scale, one-to-few, or ‘Lite ABM’ as it’s also known, is a more scalable ABM approach and targets smaller groups of target accounts simultaneously based on similar characteristics, needs, challenges and trends… Organised by sub-sectors, these groups can still be talked to in reference to their own individual markets (as with 1:1 ABM) and delivered personalised content and experiences. The accounts selected for this approach would unlikely offer the revenue opportunities to warrant a one-to-one programme but substantiate a far greater investment than a regular lead.

One-to-many ABM

Scalable to a far higher degree than the above, one-to-many ABM or ‘Programmatic ABM’, is a more cost-effective approach that provides the opportunity to create content that can be used across a large collection of target accounts that share attributes and common pain points. Maintaining a focus on targeted account groups, albeit bigger selections, and creating content specifically for them, avoids the scattergun tactic and still enables communications to speak to and engage with relevancy.

How many accounts to include in the programme is down to you but when it comes to deciding the volume, it’s important to consider the lifetime value of the accounts to your business. You don’t want to cross the line into generic marketing and move away from the ABM framework and principles, so by understanding where more long-term value can be derived, you can begin to tighten the net around the most lucrative accounts.

It might be that your organisation is already executing some aspects of an ABM programme without defining it with this title. While the world of ABM can seem like a daunting place, hopefully we’ve eased you in gently and provided some useful insight into what ABM is and the value it can deliver.

If you’d like to find out more about ABM and how it could work as a go-to marketing strategy for your business, let’s talk.

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